Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Cup of Life

The world turns ... and days pass ... and your hair turn grey .... and your life slowly withers.

But sometimes you can just about throw off that cloak of indifference and rekindle the dying embers for that final dazzle.

This normally happens every four years, about this time of the year.

In 1982, there was no TV in our house. So that famous troika of Zico-Socrates-Falcao was not seen. Only read about in the pages of Anandabazar Patrika and Aajkal. Only spoken about in hushed tones with the reverence which bangalis reserve for Brazil. Paolo Rossi was clearly the devil incarnate. Three goals against Brazil in the match they needed only to draw? Maradona's name was mentioned once or twice, but he was remembered more for the red card against Brazil than any sustained brilliance. Brazil's loss even overshadowed one of the greatest matches in WC history, the epic SF between France and W Germany. Yes, the match in which the German goalie thought he was Mohammed Ali. Some tears were shed on the exit of the Platini-Tigana-Giresse trio but a WC final without Brazil? Who cares whether Rossi scored his sixth goal in his third match or Dino Joff held the trophy that was destined for Socrates' nicotine stained fingers? My WC was over long before the one Mr. Altobeli scored the third goal for Italy in the final.

1986 came with disturbing news about ageing Team Brazil's downward trend and Zico's injury. And finally some understanding that the men in Green and Gold cannot win every match only because I wish it fervently. Mexico would always be a riot of colours (blame it on the newly acquired color TV) .... the Mexican Wave .... that man Altobeli scoring the first goal and ensconcing himself forever in those WC Footbal trivia quizzes .... the free-flowing Denmark and Morten Olsen destroying Uruguay 6-1 ... The gladiators of Spain in their dark Red costume turning the tables on Denmark .... Belgium and USSR locked in battle .... Igor Belanov scoring a hattrick only to see his team out of the cup ... Careca drawing the loudest cheer out of our throats, only for Platini to stifle it in second half ... Zico, barely 5 minutes into the game blasting his penalty kick over the bar and with it Brazil's passport to the semis .... Maradona's Hand of God and his goal of the century .... and just for emphasis two more equally brilliant ones against Belgium .... Linekar's six of the best ..... Rummenigge and Voeller almost stealing it in the dying minutes .... Burruchaga's solo run after the defense splitting pass .... Was Valdano offside while scoring the second goal? .... The Kaiser's forlorn look on the benches. But no Brazil, O Discordia.

The summer of 1990 was one of the hottest in Cal history. The Cup in Italy only addded to the woes. Yellow cards here ... red cards there ..... fouls everywhere. Francois Omam Biyik heading home the mother of all upsets .... Maradona, looking like a ghost reprising his favourite role .... getting chopped down every 3 minutes .... but still managing that fateful pass to Caniggia which sealed Brazil's fate .... Roger Milla and his crazy dribble around that first rate idiot Rene Higuita. The battle between the "Maradona of the Andes" and the "Maradona of the Carthapians" .... Rijkard's spit in Voeller's hair ... Gullit's flop show ... Linekar pumping in another 4 .... Gazza running out of fuel and patience. Toto Scillaci coming out of nowhere and fading out equally well.... Little Buddha's magic goal ..... Maldini's fatal error .... Goykocheah's purple patch. Lothar Matthaeus and his marathons. The most boring final in history. The whole world willing Brehme to score and close the chapter.

In 1994, I was in Hardwar when it all started. Still remember the effort of trying the glean all possible information from 3-day old Times of Indias. And cajoling the seniors at the GET hostel to switch on the TV at an unearthly hour of 4 am. Maradona's comeback to the world stage with 4 goals past hapless Greece ... his equally swift exit with cocaine traces. Bulgaria's Stoichkov and Netherland's Bergkamp. USA's Meola and Lalas. Oleg Salenko scoring 5 goals in one match only to see his team get booted out. Ultra-defensive Brazil disappointing in the group stages .... Dunga and Rai's "falling leaf" free kicks which go nowhere near the goal .... Romario-Bebeto cutting a swathe through opposition in the knock-outs. Letchkov's bald head burying the defending champions. Baggio rising from the grave to single-handedly carry Italy to the finals .... Brazil barely getting past spirited Sweden. A final to compete with the 1990 one. Italy lose in the shoot-out but who wins? This is not the Brazil we know.

1998 was spent in Jamshedpur amidst a sea of fellow football enthusiasts. Brazil's unimpressive stutter against Scotland was overshadowed comfortably by the soaring Super Eagles beating Hiero's Spain in a thriller .... The deadly Chilean duo of Salas and Zamorano .... Croatia's predatory Suker and silken Prosinecki .... England losing the plot against Romania ... and losing the shoot-out against Argentina ... Danes scaring Brazil badly .... Bergkamp's magical one-touch against Argentina ... France Italy slugfest resulting in Di Baggio's vital penalty kick hitting the crossbar .... Croatia showing German's their place with an unprecedented 3-0 scoreline ... Brazil and Netherlands meeting for that climactic showdown .... Kluivert's last gasp goal proving futile .... the battle between gold and blue and loads of coloured faces .... Ronaldo's mystery concussion .... Zizou's head and feet sealing Brazil's fate .... Denilson's meaningless dribbling at the edge of the box. Petit striking the final blow .... another four year wait for Cafu.


Dipta Chaudhuri said...

You are a fucking European.
You wrote about every single thing except the Braziliant flourishes.

Not a word about the 1998 Netherlands match. Brazil going 2-0 up. Letting in two goals (just to make it interesting!) and then winning. I remember Romario & Bebeto celebrated Bebeto's son being born after the second goal was scored... who cares whether they could have lost! They played the way it should be played!

And as for Ronaldo, I am still captivated by the humongous Nike poster in PVR. With a background of his No. 9 jersey are the words, "Don't write my history just yet..."

Dipta Chaudhuri said...

Oh sorry... forgot to mention. Not only is it written well, you have an elephant's memory too!


Aah yes. That France-Brazil match with Zico and Platini both missing penalties. One of the best match I have seen.